Jumaat, 11 Oktober 2013

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The Star Online: Metro: Central

Vietnam battles for General Giap’s legacy


HANOI: The death of Vietnam's last great independence leader has sparked a battle over his legacy, with the regime seeking a firm grip on his image as communist hero, and brushing aside his criticism of the party in later life.

More than 100,000 people have visited the Hanoi house of General Vo Nguyen Giap, who died on Friday aged 102, to pay their respects to the military strategist hailed for masterminding Vietnam's stunning battlefield victories against France and America.

Giap will be given a state funeral attended by the country's top leaders on Sunday, as the heavily-censored one-party state seeks to downplay the general's later activities as a persistent government critic.

"The state is eager to recall the general as a symbol of the unquestionable legitimacy of the communist party," said Jonathan London of the Department of Asian and International Studies at City University of Hong Kong.

But he said the general was actually "quite uneasy with the current leadership", which has faced increasingly vocal domestic criticism in recent years amid persistent economic woes and high-profile corruption scandals.

"His loss is a watershed moment for the country's history (and his death has) given way to its own battle – a battle over his legacy."

The communist party, which has run unified Vietnam since the war ended in 1975, relies heavily on the personality cult it has built around founding father Ho Chi Minh – whose body, against his wishes, was preserved and put on display in Hanoi.

All Vietnamese school children learn about "Uncle Ho" and criticising him – even in jest – can land people in hot water.

Giap looks destined for the same treatment.

"The party can still produce huge benefits from late leaders like Ho Chi Minh and Giap for a long time to come," said Pham Hong Son, an activist who has spent years in prison for anti-state activity.

"They have lost a living legend but it is not important as they rely not on Giap's life, but his image."

In many ways Giap fits the mould of the perfect communist hero.

A self-taught soldier, he is lauded as a military strategy genius for defeating the French in 1954 at Dien Bien Phu in a battle that ended Paris' colonial rule in Indochina.

The founding father of the Vietnam People's Army later pioneered the ruthless guerilla warfare that was to push the United States from Vietnam.

But despite being a "loyal-to-death" communist, Pham said Giap's outspoken criticism of the party on certain issues gave "implicit support" to the country's dissidents.

The general began to speak out in his 90s, years after he was shunted from politics by enemies resentful of his battlefield success.

Writing open letters and using anniversary events to rail against sensitive issues such as corruption and bauxite mining, Giap "opened a space for others" to criticise the government, London said.

Retired Vietnamese General Nguyen Trong Vinh said Giap was able to raise sensitive issues with the government without fear of repercussions.

Viet Tan, an exile group that Hanoi considers a terrorist organisation, said it was embarrassing for the regime that the general had highlighted corruption and failures of foreign policy.

One popular blogger and outspoken critic of Vietnam's authoritarian leaders said "the last 'real communist' has died", and that it was obvious that it was no longer communist ideology that guided the country. — AFP

Rape victims suffer in silence


MALAKPUR (India): Fatima's face turned ashen as she recalled how neighbours armed with sickles and swords stormed her house and dragged her daughter out by the hair during Hindu-Muslim riots in northern India.

"There were six of them. They tied me to a chair and raped my young girl one by one.

"I could do nothing to save her," Fatima said with tears welling up at a relief camp a few hours drive from New Delhi.

The family of seven was left shattered by the attack on the 17-year-old, which came during riots between Hindus and Muslims in and around Uttar Pradesh's Muzaffar-nagar district last month that killed at least 50.

Yet they have chosen not to report the matter to the police.

"If the word spreads that my daughter was gang-raped, tell me who will marry her? She will be branded as dirty and we will be thrown out of our own community," Fatima said at the camp in Malakpur where nearly 10,000 Muslims are sheltering.

Her story is just one among many, indicating that as well as arson and beatings, sexual violence was rampant during the three-day riots, which started on September 7.

But police say they have registered only five sexual violence cases from the riots from 282 criminal cases overall.

"We are investigating each case carefully," Kalpana Saxena, a senior police officer said.

The carnage was triggered by the killing of a Muslim man, allegedly by members of the dominant Jat Hindu family who accused him of sexually harassing their sister.

The Muslims then allegedly killed two Jat boys, leading to violence that fast spiralled out of control.

Local political leaders were accused of encouraging the violence to polarise the state along religious lines ahead of general elections next year.

Naushad Ahmad Khan, a lawyer and activist who owns an ancestral house in Muzaffarnagar's Lank village, said women were reluctant to complain because of the fear of reprisals and a lack of faith in the police and courts.

"Even by most conservative estimates, there must be at least 50 cases of gang rape alone," said Khan, who has filed a public interest case in the Supreme Court, seeking a probe.

The decision to suffer in silence reflects the stigma attached to rape, especially in deeply patriarchal societies in rural India.

It also casts doubt on a narrative that the fatal gang-rape of a 23-year-old student on a bus in New Delhi in December represented a turning point for attitudes towards women.

The bus rape was followed by weeks of street protests, leading to the strengthening of laws and talk of how more women felt encouraged to report sexual crimes.

New York-based Human Rights Watch has called on the government to provide counselling as well as legal and medical aid to victims.

"The Uttar Pradesh government needs to urgently create an environment for victims to come forward and seek justice," said Meenakshi Ganguly, HRW's South Asia director. — AFP

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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